Need for Speed Undercover

Games looking to bill themselves as Hollywood movies are far from a new concept. Given that the average Metal Gear Solid release has more lines of dialogue in it than an entire series of the Gilmore Girls, some might argue that Hideo Kojima has stolen the crown on that particular score.

Games looking to bill themselves as cheap, poorly made TV movies, however, are a rarer beast.

Indeed, you could go as far as to proclaim Need for Speed Undercover something of a lone forager. Only the most generous of critics could describe the cut-scenes that sandwich its stages as anything other than embarrassing.

Film flop

They are, however, entirely apt. Perhaps more so than almost any other mobile release, Need for Speed Undercover is concerned with how it looks rather than how it plays.

This was arguably the case when the game first hit iPhone over a year ago and, with seemingly very little time paid to the various strengths and weaknesses of its new home, it's a factor that's even more apparent on Windows Phone 7.

Whether you're in a straight race with four other cars or attempting to take out your rivals and even the police by slamming into them in quick time, the actual act of taking to the wheel remains largely identical across the modes.

As you might expect, Need for Speed Undercover takes care of acceleration for you (although holding your finger anywhere on the screen will cause you to brake), with steering handled by the phone's accelerometer.

This is where the fine line between success and failure lies. Guiding your car through the streets while avoiding any civilian traffic in the way comes down to the gentlest of tilts.

There's also the ability to add a bit of pace to the proceedings, available either by swiping your finger upwards on the screen or by slip-streaming a competitor for a few short seconds.

Close contents

Both are often made completely redundant by some blatant cheating on the game's part, however, with any cop cars on your tail usually remaining in close proximity regardless of how fast you may or may not be flying.

Worse than this is the general banality that engulfs play as the races come and go.

There's an undeniable feeling that, essentially, all you're doing is guiding around a box on wheels, with little time having been spent on building a solid physics engine.

It's a view that gains considerable ground when taking on rivals in one-on-one battles. Here, the sole aim is to bash your particular box into your competitors until theirs is wrecked. Seeing your car bounce back off your opponent's time and again is neither fun nor grounded in any sense of realism.

However, it's the bugs that pop up during this Windows Phone 7 version of Need for Speed Undercover that really grate.

It's possible to ignore the loading screens that talk of the ability to zoom in on the film clips that decorate play – a feature apparently possible on the iPhone release, but absent here – but more annoying are the game's menu screens that often refuse to recognise valid button presses.

In plain sight

Buying a car playing on an HTC HD7, for instance, is often a frustrating experience, the game seemingly locking up and ignoring anything but swipes.

Even trying to hit the 'back' button offers no joy. It's a bug that makes upgrading to something a little more meaty later on almost impossible.

It's still possible to enjoy a decent race, of course, regardless of what wheels you're driving. Indeed, Need for Speed Undercover's straight contests are undoubtedly its high point, with the smooth flow of play for one brief moment translating rather well.

However, for a game that comes in at over a few quid, it's not unreasonable to expect a racer specifically tailored for Windows Phone 7 – Xbox Live achievements and leaderboards aside, of course.

Add in the fact that, 18 months on, Need for Speed Undercover already feels a touch dated compared to the competition, and you have a game that's unable to keep its dark and deadly moments under wraps.

Need for Speed Undercover

Already feeling a little archaic, EA's decision to port Need for Speed Undercover from iPhone to Windows Phone 7, warts and all, will leave many feeling short changed
Keith Andrew
Keith Andrew
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. He's also Pocket Gamer's resident football gaming expert and, thanks to his work on, monitors the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.